On Sept 24, we traveled 47 miles from Ludington to White Lake, MI. It was still a bit windy, but manageable when staying close to shore. We had hoped to get to Grand Haven, but the winds were too strong by afternoon. A benefit to stopping at White Hall Marina was that Loopers Dan and Jenny Lynn from Melody in Sea were there to greet us. They had completed their Loop and we were all so glad to see each other again. We all had dinner out that night at the local pizza place.
Winds kept us here, so what to do? There were some great bike paths here, so we put the feet to the pedals and started exploring on the bikes. There was one bike path that went quite a distance to the library. There were all kinds of art work in the woods along the way – that made for a really enjoyable ride. The library was awesome. It had a great reading room with huge windows that looked out towards the woods. There were also several interesting displays. The subject of one display dealt with books that “the public” had tried to ban from schools and public libraries. Quite interesting to see that many of the books are what we now regard as “classics.” Thank goodness for libraries that can expose us to so many different books.
Jenny Lynn and Dan were so kind to invite us all to dinner at the party room at their marina next door. Such a treat!
After four days of wind, we made a long day of 73 miles to South Haven. What a great stop this was. The marina docks were a little shaky on the electricity, but there was a great community room – where we had yet another Looper Pot Luck dinner. Town was just a short walk away and had lots of places of interest. And as an extra treat, The Downton Abbey movie was playing at the local theater! I had seen it advertised, but never thought we’d find a place to see it. Life is good!
We also got to visit the Michigan Maritime Museum. So interesting. We were able to go aboard the tall ship Friends Good Will, a replica of the original ship. Some of the early Coast Guard rescue boats were displayed as well as an exhibit on the shipwrecks in the Great Lakes (maybe not the best thing to see when we are cruising). There was also an actual fish tug that fished on Lake Michigan, which we were able to walk aboard. Another exhibit was about the movie Finest Hours which is about a rescue on the Lake. A sister ship of the original rescue boat was located in Michigan and was used in the movie. So much to learn – so little time!
On Monday, the winds were low and we headed out to LeLand, MI, also known as “Fishtown.” In the mid 1800’s to early 1900’s, LeLand established itself as a large commercial fishing area. Still present are the old wooden buildings where fish was brought in to port, right off the boats. There is still some commercial fishing there, but the town is now more of a tourist attraction.
WOW, we got two days in a row of low winds, so we moved again on Tuesday to Frankfort, MI. Along the way we started noticing many sandy beach areas. We had no idea that so much of the coast of Michigan was sand. We passed Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park – more about that later. Several Looper boats were traveling together, making our way towards Chicago.
Winds were pretty high for the next few days, so we looked to see what we could do in Frankfort. Couldn’t find any public transportation to take us anywhere and no Uber. We really wanted to see Sleeping Bear Dunes, but it was several miles away – biking wasn’t a good option. Going out to dinner that evening with friends Patty and Todd, I decided that we would try to see if any of the wait staff at the restaurant might drive us over tomorrow. Well, we sat down at a table and before our waiter could even introduce himself, Patty said “Do you have a car?” Looking a little stunned, he said “yes.” Then she said “What are you doing tomorrow?” I’m thinking that he has thoughts of “Mrs. Robinson” in his head! We explained that we wanted to go to the park. As it turned out, he had just given up his next day’s shift to someone who needed the work hours. He was free and would be happy to take us. We agreed on a price and time for pick up. Where there is a will, there is a way.
GREAT day at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park. The weather was sunny and comfortable, so we hiked the dunes. Some of the dunes are over 450 ft high. Beautiful sand and fabulous views of the Lake are the rewards at the top of the dunes.
Our driver, Lowell, had dropped us off and said he would return in a couple of hours. When he came back, he asked if we wanted to go anywhere else. Sure, let’s go to the Visitor’s Center. So we went there and got some education about the area. We tried to get in to one of the lighthouses, but it was closed that day. Then – since he was willing – we went to Glen Arbor, the next small town south of us. We treated Lowell to some ice cream at the Cherry Republic Store, which is a fun place to visit. Anything “cherry” that you can think of to eat or drink is available at a Cherry Republic Store. All those Michigan cherries are delicious. We walked around the town, then headed back to Frankfort. We paid Lowell and tipped him. We were happy, and he probably made more money driving us around than he would have made at work that day. We suggested that he could set up a side business during the summer and offer his driving services to Loopers.
While at Frankfort, we also did some beach walking, had an outdoor Looper Pot Luck Dinner, did some biking and even found a farmer’s market. The sun was out, the temps were great — just the wind held us back from traveling, but it was a fun time there. One note about the market – there was a man there who sold various kinds of mushrooms. We got quite an education talking with him. We tried some of the mushrooms he had available – quite delicious.
One of the benefits of traveling late in the season, is that many of the Michigan marinas are half price after Labor Day. We were glad to have some compensation for having to stay so long at each place because of the September winds. Unfortunately, we had to skip over many places we would have liked to visit because there were only so many days we could still be cruising, and many of those days were too windy to move. Something that we haven’t previously mentioned – the locks south of Chicago were to be closed Sept 21 – Oct 5. Earlier in the trip we had to make a decision. Would we rush thru Georgian Bay and North Channel to get thru the locks BEFORE they closed, or take our time and plan to go thru after they reopened? Waiting for the reopening put us late in the season, but we didn’t want to rush thru some great places and miss out. The downside is that the winds were curtailing where and when we could cruise. I guess that’s the Ying and Yang of life!
On the 20thwe were able to move to Ludington. This is home to the SS Badger, the last remaining large coal-burning steamship in the US. It cruises between Wisconsin and Michigan, connecting the eastern and western segments of US 10, and has officially been designated as part of US 10. It was originally a rail car ferry, but now only transports passengers, autos, busses, and trucks. It makes two trips in each direction, each day, and rarely misses a sailing due to inclement weather. The departure and arrival of the ship is somewhat of an event each day in Ludington, and we were able to see it come and go several times. Some of the Loopers took the trip over to Wisconsin and returned later in the day. The ship is a registered historical site.
We also did some lighthouse visits in Ludington. The North Breakwater Lighthouse (yes, same name as the one in Frankfort) is at the entrance to the channel to the marina, so we saw it when we entered Ludington, and we walked out to it while on a bike ride. The waves crash against the stone breakwater, splashing water up into the air.
The Big Sable Lighthouse is located in Ludington State Park. That visit required a much longer bike ride. We were able to go inside this lighthouse and the views from the top were fabulous.
We had another Looper Pot Luck Dinner in Ludington – 10 Looper Boat crews in attendance. Lots of chatter and laughs. Games followed dinner. Not such a bad way to spend windy days in port.
Many years ago we had spent some time on Mackinac Island and it was enchanting. No motor vehicles except some emergency and service vehicles. Lots of horses and bikes, and beautiful scenery. So for this visit – Stay on the island, or stay on the mainland? Which would be best? The weather is always the determining factor. There were some strong winds coming in from the south, just where the island marina is. We had already been warned that docked boats get tossed a good bit by ferries coming to the island. Winds would add to the rocking. Mainland it was. Friends from home – Kathy and Steve – were coming up to visit. SO glad to finally see someone from Augusta. We have been gone since the end of March – a long time away from familiar faces.
Some people were kind enough to help us get docked. One gentleman was a native of Mackinaw City. He and Ed got into quite a lengthy conversation. Shortly after we arrived, Kathy and Steve also got to the marina. Hugs all around. Ed was still talking. Before I knew it, we had all been invited to ride over to Mackinac Island the next morning with Ed’s new friend in his boat.
The next morning, we got on their boat and were met with muffins, hot coffee and juice. I’ll say it again – Boaters are the Best! The boat we boarded was an old Chris Craft. She was a beauty and was well used and enjoyed by Bill and Marilyn (Crane) and their family members. We had quite a ride over to the island. The plan was to breakfast at The Pink Pony – a local favorite. Brunch was delightful and we were entertained by more stories of growing up around the island.
We parted company with our new friends after brunch and then we headed off with Kathy and Steve to do some island exploring. A horse and buggy ride is a delightful way to see the island, so that is what we did, and we got a tour of the highlights of the island.
Our last stop was at the former military fort on the high top of the hillside. The tour of the fort gave us some history of the island and then we walked to The Grand Hotel.
What an appropriate name! She really is GRAND. Sitting on the verandah, you can look out to the water and the lovely grounds of the hotel.
Inside The Grand Hotel, it’s a treat to see the old craftsmanship and unique decorating style of the hotel. The designer certainly didn’t go for neutral colors. It’s lively and colorful and definitely makes a statement! We walked throughout the hotel and ended up in the Cupola Bar which had a fabulous view of – Everything! Great spot for drinks in the afternoon.
The next day we walked around Mackinaw City (on the mainland) and also toured the US Coast Guard Icebreaker Mackinaw WAGB-83. It is now retired and set up as a museum. It was built during WWII to ensure that war materials could continue to be transported during the winter months. Got a treat during the tour. One of the docents actually served on the boat, so we got some personal insight into the operation of the boat. Later in the day we drove over the Mackinac Bridge – the third longest suspension bridge in the US – to St. Ignace. We walked around that town and tried a local food item – a pastie – rhymes with nasty. We tried it – won’t be looking for them anymore!
On the 11th, Kathy and Steve got to cruise with us to Charlevoix, MI. We drove underthe Mackinac Bridge and started heading south. Wish I could say we found warmer temperatures, but we still needed coats. Charlevoix is REALLY charming and we docked right in front of the city and did a walk through the town.
Next morning, Kathy and Steve retrieved their car and returned. Later that day we drove to Traverse City. We went to the old Traverse City State Hospital which is being renovated for use as stores, restaurants and even a farmers market. It’s a huge area of buildings with lots of potential. While in Traverse City, we also got to visit with more friends from Augusta – Dennis and Marita – who were doing a bike tour in Michigan.
On the 13th, we said goodbye to Kathy and Steve. It was SO wonderful to have someone from home come and visit. As much as we are enjoying this journey, there are still the moments of missing home. If others are so inclined, we’d love the company.
Later in the day we headed out to see more of Charlevoix. This is home to what are affectionately called the Mushroom Houses. Over a period of 56 years (starting in 1919), Earl Young designed many residential properties and even some commercial buildings that have a whimsical look to them, some resembling mushrooms. They are enchanting. If you’re interested, these homes are rented out to vacationers.
On the 15th, our Augusta friends Dennis and Marita rode their bicycles into Charlevoix. They were moving more miles on bikes than we were in a boat. Oh, have I mentioned the high winds – again. Anyway, they came to see the boat and checked out Ed’s “man cave” in the basement. Tomorrow is a good travel day. We’re making tracks tomorrow for LeLand.
We finally escaped the grip of Little Current on August 31, and headed to The Benjamin Islands – a “Must See” on the Looper List. We knew just where we were going to anchor, and the spot would protect us from the South winds coming in overnight. Guess what? LOTS of other people also knew just where we were going to anchor and were already there. OK, this WAS Labor Day Weekend, which Canadians also celebrate, so we should have expected company. Didn’t see a spot we felt comfortable anchoring in overnight, so we went to the southside and anchored temporarily so we could get the dinghy and explore. We couldn’t stay there, because we would have gotten the full force of the south winds. WOW, what we saw from the dinghy was beautiful. These are very accessible islands and people were walking everywhere. We tied up to shore and walked/explored for awhile. So sad that we couldn’t stay the night.
Next stop was to be Hotham Island, so we headed there for the night. We traveled north and then traveled to the north side of the island to a cove. Navigation aids are great, but sometimes they aren’t very accurate. As we entered the cove, we saw a lovely secluded spot to our right, which was plenty deep – according to our electronic and paper charts. I eased the boat that direction and was I ever glad I was going slow. Suddenly the depth finder started to plummet. Reverse, reverse! Those were rocks down there and they were NOT boat friendly. We changed course and moved over to another area where there were two other boats. We anchored and it was not long after, that a lady named Elaine came over to us in her kayak. She welcomed us and said she and her husband owned a home in the cove and all the boaters were welcome to come over for Happy Hour at 5. How great is that? We had a lot of fun that evening. As a bonus, after it was dark, there were only 3 anchor lights in the cove – the darkness gave us a great star show in the night sky!
Moving on to the next stop – Turnbull Islands Anchorage. Got to the islands and we wove our way between islands into an open area anchorage. Just a few other boats there – lots of room. The islands didn’t look very walkable, but they were great scenery. Decided it was a good day to lay in the sun on the bow of the boat– something I like – NEVER do. After about an hour, I noticed a distinct change in the weather. Winds were increasing and the temp was dropping. We checked weather info again – yep, it had changed. Winds would increase significantly overnight and into morning. Stay or go? Our boat is like a big sailboat in the winds – getting pushed every which way, so the decision was GO.
We arrived at Blind River Marina in late afternoon. Not too many boats here – for good reason. It was starting to get COLD. Local boaters were already putting their boats in storage or dry dock for the winter. Huh! We were given a T-dock tie up, and we were pretty much the only ones on that dock. A T-dock means a boat is docked at the end of the dock, outside of a slip. Imagine several slips coming off of the stalk of a T, and we were on the outside across the top of the T. Hard to explain. Blind River is sometimes referred to as “the Metropolis of the North Channel” with a population around 4000!
The next morning was windy, but sunny. We borrowed trail bikes from the marina and headed to a local park with hiking and biking trails. Glad we took their bikes – there was mud and difficult places to get through on the trails. Ended up on a point that overlooked Lake Huron – beautiful. Then we sort of lost our way on a trail – it didn’t exactly follow the map we had. When in doubt – retrace your steps. We found our way back home! Back on the boat, we saw two kayakers come in. They made their way to a grassy area near the marina office and set up a tent.
The next day it rained the proverbial cats and dogs. Winds were pushing our boat off the dock – put out more lines for reinforcement. We looked towards the office and there was that tent – somehow still standing in the winds. During a break in the rain, we walked up that way and met the two kayakers. They were on a fairly long trip, and were certainly well provisioned and geared for just about anything. But we did feel sorry for them sleeping in a tent in cold and rain. We offered to have them stay in our front cabin, but they declined. They did accept an invitation for a hot dinner and we had a very enjoyable evening.
Next day the rain stopped, but the winds were still too strong for us to leave. The wind did change direction and was now pushing our boat against the dock. Time to put out more fenders. We walked around town – not much happening. The next day was still windy – would this ever stop? Now we know why Loopers are told to be off Lake Michigan by Labor Day. The winds in this northern area increase significantly starting mid-August.
In looking at our remaining days, it was obvious to us that we would have to skip some of the places we had wanted to see. That’s the most difficult part of the trip – trying to decide where to stop and what to skip. There are too many places to see and not enough days to get to all of them; hence the reason that many people “loop” more than once.
Winds finally died and we headed to Drummond Island, our re-entry point to the US.
Clearing customs was easy – had a one way video chat with a customs official. They can see us, but we can’t see them! Ed had arranged for the fuel filters to be changed at this marina – they were already half thru when we finished with customs. WOW, that was fast! We met some other Loopers here, which was good. While talking to the boat docked next to us, they happened to mention something about a fireplace on board. What?? We just HAD to ask to see it. This isn’t something you’ll see on many other boats – if ANY!
We spent three nights here due to winds and weather. Found a local museum. Seems that two families pretty much settled this area. The one volunteer at the museum was from one of the families, so we heard lots of local stories. Found a fun store in town – one of those that stocks a few of just about everything. A small grocery story next door provided us with some provisions that we needed and, of course, we even found an ice cream store!
We had been in Canada since June 28. What a wonderful summer! The temps had been comfortable most days, and even during the few weeks that it was hot in the daytime, the evening temps were cool and refreshing. Makes us wonder if we ever want to spend another summer in Augusta.
Next stop was just a 24 mile hop to Little Current, which is on Manitoulin Island. We made a slight detour to Covered Portage Cove. There is supposed to be a rock formation there that looks like an Indian Head. Couldn’t find it, but it was a beautiful area to travel. As we approached Little Current, we could see the Strawberry Island Lighthouse. This is where we leave Georgian Bay and enter The North Channel of Lake Huron.
Beyond the lighthouse was the Little Current Bridge. Our resource books warned that the current going under the bridge could be as strong as 6-7 knots (8 mph). So how is that a “little” current? Most of us agreed that it should be “Big Current.”
We did a radio call to the marina for a slip assignment and encountered a problem that many “transient” boaters have – poor communication. Our instructions were to turn left at “Wally’s” and then left again into a numbered slip. So if we’ve never been here, how are we supposed to know where “Wally’s” is located? We looked and looked – couldn’t find it. The man on the radio apparently spotted us and told us we were going too far. We turned and we were able to spot him on shore by the color of his shirt. We eventually saw the “Wally’s” sign. It’s circular – about 3 feet in diameter. NOT very visible from the water. Right next to it was a sign with a fuel pump to represent that they had fuel available for sale. THAT sign was about 6 x 8; MUCH more visible.
Wind and rain kept us in LC for 6 nights. We weren’t alone – several Loopers in the marina with us. We found things to keep us busy. We didn’t have a really good system for hoisting and holding the dinghy. It was mostly just our brute strength! Yeah, our backs were going to pay for that. Ed got some parts at a boat store. He rigged a new system and now he can hoist it all by himself. My back thanked him.
“Cruisers Net” is a half hour live broadcast that is on the VHF Marine radio everyday in July and August. Roy Eaton is the host and he gives weather info, a quick news update, a couple local interest sports scores, and then he opens the time for cruisers to radio in to give their present locations, relay messages, request assistance, or to just say “hi.” Sometimes he interviews a person of interest. He’s been doing this for over 15 years and has been a BIG promoter of the North Channel region, which starts at LC. We attended several of the shows including his last broadcast of the season on August 31. He was kind to review charts of the region with us and to share favorite places to visit along our way. We even had a visit from him on our boat where he gave us some additional info. Wonderful gentleman! Cruisers Net also hosted a Pot Luck Supper for all the cruisers in the area. Over 50 people came – LOTS of fun. That’s where we saw pictures of a boat that had been boarded by a bear! Oh goodness, I had hoped that was just a rumor, but no, actually 5 boats had been boarded before authorities captured the bear. Some things you DON’T want to experience.
On California Lady, Nancy and Mike celebrated their wedding anniversary, and then Nancy celebrated a birthday. For her birthday gift, we arranged a tour of the LC Bridge and operations room. It was a climb up the bridge to the operations room, but fun to get the views from there. We got a tour of the mechanism for opening the bridge and hoped to be on the bridge when it opened for boats but because it was such a windy day, no boats were traveling through while we were there.
When we came to LC, because of approaching bad weather, we had bypassed a very popular anchorage in Baie Fine, which is one of the few fjords in North America. We learned that a large tour boat in LC had a scheduled trip there. We wouldn’t take OUR boat in the windy conditions, but decided we would ride the big boat so that we could see what we had missed. SO glad that we did this. We rode out to the area – which was as beautiful as we had been told – and the boat was able to run up on shore at the end of the passage in an area called The Pool. We were given time to get off the boat so that we could hike to Topaz Lake. WOW – what a sight THAT was. Clear green-blue water that sparkled. Some people went swimming–the Canadians. The day was a bit cold for us Southerners! I think I heard the water temp described as “bracing!”
One of the Loopers was walking in town when he found Barney’s Bargain Barn. He came back to tell us about the great prices they had on food items, so several of us walked there. Upon arrival, a man motioned us to a large shed that was attached to the building. Inside were big boxes of various kinds of food. He told us “Help yourself. It’s all free.” I think we had found a food pantry, probably set up for low income people, and I had a guilty feeling of taking food from people who probably needed it. But he kept insisting that we take things. When we went inside, we did indeed, find some great prices on some food items. We purchased a few things and then took some of the free packages of cookies outside in the shed. Always new experiences on this trip!
Speaking of food, we found some Hawberry Jelly and a story to go with it. Hawberries grow on Manitoulin Island. They aren’t the most scrumptious of berries to eat. At one time, only poor people ate the berries which no one else wanted. If someone called you a “Haweater,” it was a real put down meaning you couldn’t afford to eat better food. As years went by, the Hawberry grew in status as a symbol of the island. Now, only people who were born on the island can call themselves “Haweaters.” We just had to get a jar of the Hawberry Jelly to try it. OK – not so great, but we liked the history lesson.
We were also fortunate to be introduced to Smoked Fish Spread which is made in the North Channel. It is “some kind of good!” It’s always fun to try the local fare – sometimes it’s a treat and sometimes it’s a “once in a lifetime experience,” because we don’t want to eat it again!!
After completing Collins Inlet, we arrived at Killarney, Ontario. This is a tiny town with a BIG benefactor. A man who grew up there, apparently made it “big” during his career and he decided to pour a heck of a lot of money into this tiny town (population 386) to make it a “destination.” Until 1962, it was only accessible by water, so there are two marinas there, owned by the same benefactor.
One is a Sportsman’s Inn – kind of rugged. The other is Killarney Mountain Lodge, which is anything but rugged. There is a beautiful lodge as well as cabins. A new conference center has recently been completed. There we saw one of the rooms prepared for a wedding reception – really beautiful with huge windows overlooking the water and forest areas. The bear skin on the fireplace actually looked pretty small in comparison to the room. So, can you guess where we docked the boat?
The town was originally named Shebahonaning, meaning canoe passage. OK, not the easiest name to pronounce. So how did it become Killarney? Seems the Canadian Postal Service would not deliver mail to towns with Indian (First Nation) names. Not sure who renamed the town, but they must have had a bit of the Irish in them to choose “Killarney.” Picked up this info at the town museum.
We have been fortunate to find a Catholic Church almost every weekend that we have been on the Loop. Surprisingly, Killarney was no exception. I guess if you have the desire to get to Church, God will help you find it.
The Looper resource books always mention favorite restaurants – is it any wonder that people say they gain weight on this trip? The “must eat at” spot in Killarney is Herbert Fisheries. The fishing boat is adjacent to the restaurant. The menu is whatever is caught in the morning! We do agree with this recommendation. Ate there twice in two days. First time to try vinegar on french fries – found something new that we liked!
The weather was beautiful at Killarney, so we stayed for two nights. A group of us hiked out to the lighthouse, went to the one truck farmer’s market, ate ice cream, and just enjoyed the charm of this delightful “destination.”
Unfortunately, at this point we had to say goodbye to Summer Lynn. Nancy and Gary were picking up a granddaughter in a few days and she was going to accompany them to the end of their Loop – where they would “cross their wake.” This is also the life of a Looper – always saying “Hello” to new people, and “Goodbye” to new friends.
The date says it is not yet autumn, but autumn-like weather starts earlier in Canada. We headed to Parry Sound to stay at Big Sound Marina for a few days, because the winds were predicted to be strong over the weekend. We took a long way around to get there because we were told it was the most scenic route. It was very pretty and we were glad we took it as we were later told that a bridge on the shorter route was closed due to winds. As we approached the harbor, we saw Summer Lynn, who we had spent 8 nights with in the Erie Canal closure, and had briefly seen again at Henry’s Restaurant. She was to be our traveling companion for a while.
Our windy weekend stay was restful. We did some boat chores, walked around town, had docktails with the several Loopers who were there. Found some great ice cream – the largest portions for the least cost of anywhere we had been – did some bike riding to work off that ice cream, and found a fabulous used bookstore – Bearly Used Books. There were rooms and rooms of books stacked on shelves floor to ceiling. I was amazed that when I asked for a couple of books I wanted, the clerk was able to direct me to the exact location. WOW – how do they do that?
Headed out on the 20thwith Summer Lynn. Stopped first at Killbear Marina to get fuel. Got $500 worth – just to top off the tanks. No, that was not a complete fill!
Continued thru some beautiful areas, intending to anchor at Regatta Bay and taking a dinghy to a well known restaurant called Gilly’s. The Bay was too crowded, so we headed back towards Gilly’s, hoping to find a place to briefly anchor as the dock area at Gilly’s was too small and shallow for our boats. We turned in to an area that seemed good. There were 3 cottages there, and upon our arrival, one of the owners came out with her hands on her hips and a scowl on her face that dared us to anchor in front of her cottage. We had been warned that “Cottagers” don’t appreciate boaters anchoring in front of them. Feeling VERY unwanted, we tried some other areas, but waters were too deep. We left without visiting Gilly’s, but we had renamed the area “Grumpy Lady Bay!” We ended up for the night in Hopewell Bay, anchored off of Shawanaga Island. We went exploring in dinghy boats and our friend Gary somehow sucked up a rock into the jet drive of his dinghy. This is where two dinghies came in handy. He attached the dinghy to his boat and raised it. Then from our dinghy he was able to get under his raised dinghy and fix the problem. All that work required a celebratory dinner which we had on Vitamin Sea followed by a showing of the movie Captain Ron which Gary and Nancy had not seen. We consider it the “training video” for all boat captains!
On the 21st we headed to the Bustard Islands – one of the top spots recommended by all Loopers. This involves a long story, which I will try to abbreviate. When we entered, there was one boat (Alcyone) anchored and the captain was attempting to tie the stern line to a point on shore. We went over to that area and tried and tried to anchor, to no avail. The Georgian Bay is mostly rock bottom with layers of sediment, fallen leaves and such on top of the rock. Being a very popular spot, you can imagine that these layers have been greatly disturbed, hence, we were trying to set an anchor on rock – doesn’t work well. Summer Lynn had seemed to find a spot farther away, so we moved closer to them and we seemed to hold. Soon, another boat passed in front of us and tried to anchor where we had originally tried. No luck, and soon that boat left, as well as the boat that we thought was anchored (Alcyone). We checked our own status and found that the anchor was not holding. It was late in the afternoon, so we had to find something fast. Strong winds (30-40 mph) were predicted for the night. We went around the island and checked another spot – no good. We went to another area and found many boats in the most desirable spot. There was one spot remaining that was somewhat surrounded on three sides by large rocks. Oh well, running out of daylight. We wiggled our way into the spot and believed our anchor to be holding. Ed took out a stern anchor to hold us in a straight position during the night winds so that we wouldn’t twist back and forth. This was a night that would require constant watch. I had first shift. The winds were so strong that we had opened all of the plastic windows up top to allow the wind to blow thru. We had navigation instruments turned on that showed us our longitude and latitude points. We figured we would keep an eye on that to help detect if we were moving. 9PM – good. 10 PM – I think we’re good. The position points were changing slightly – the problem was that we didn’t know how much of a change was just slight or significant. Lots of prayers. Ed tried to catch some sleep while I kept watch. 11PM and 12AM seemed OK. At 1AM, the winds had subsided substantially. I awoke Ed and then I went to sleep. He checked numbers and all seemed well and much calmer. At daylight we were in the same spot – anchor had held! Now we had to pick up two anchors, but the wind had shifted direction. When Ed went out in the dinghy to get the stern anchor, the winds started blowing the boat towards the rocks. Took lots of work at the helm to keep away from those hard rocks. We were blessed to get away safely. By the way, the Bustards were beautiful, and a might stressful, too!
August 22nd took us through probably the prettiest area we have seen, and that is Collins Inlet. The inlet is narrow and has high rock walls and sparkling clear water. Majestic is the only word that describes it. We got halfway through and we were in Mill Lake. We found an anchorage with Summer Lynn near Green Island. Again we let down the dinghies and went exploring. We were able to walk out on some of the islands – so beautiful. We kept reading in some of the Looper Facebook pages that they were picking blueberries in various places. We had looked, but never seemed to find anything. So we finally found some. They were about as big as a big pin head. NOT the blueberries I’m used to picking in Georgia. We left them for the bears.
After returning to the boat, we found that our anchor wasn’t holding. It had started raining by then and the temp had turned cold, but Ed went out to the bow of the boat to raise the anchor. We reset it and again hoped it would hold. Dinner on Summer Lynn that evening. This is the way great friendships are started: lots of conversation, laughs and shared experiences. Such is the life of a Looper.
Part of the joy of Georgian Bay is anchoring in so many beautiful places. Anchoring is so different than being in a marina. It’s sometimes challenging, it can be euphoric in the beauty surrounding you, it certainly puts you in Nature, and it’s part of a boating experience that boaters shouldn’t miss – especially in Georgian Bay.
On the 14th we headed to an anchorage in Indian Harbor. We hadn’t anchored much in the past three months, so our anchoring skills were more than a little rusty. We reached the large Bay and there were a few other boats already there. We were soon to become their entertainment for the afternoon. We dropped anchor and tried several times to get it to set. Didn’t have much luck. After several tries, a heavily accented voice came over the radio with helpful advice. By golly, the anchor finally got set. Shortly thereafter, a dinghy pulled up and we were visited by Bob and Karen – Kiwis from Down Under, and the owners of MoWhiskey. It was great to see them again and we thanked Bob for his timely advice.
One of the disadvantages of anchoring, is that you can’t always get off the boat to stretch your legs and go walking. There was an island near us that looked perfect for taking a walk. We saw another boater there who had taken her dog with her. We dinghyed over, tied up and started our own exploring.
Shortly thereafter, the lady came over to us and asked if we had permission to be on the island. Seems that many of the Georgian Islands are privately owned and “The Cottagers” don’t appreciate uninvited guests. Well, no we didn’t have permission. Her reply was, “If anyone asks, just tell them that you are taking photos for the Georgian Land Trust Photo Contest.” Kary went on to tell us that land owners often bequeath part of their land holdings to the “Trust.” It’s a tax deduction for them and it means no one can ever build on the land. She was a volunteer with the Trust and was very familiar with this particular island. She took us on a tour and was able to give us all kinds of history about the creation of the islands in the area. What a great chance encounter.
Next day we continued traveling, passed one anchoring option of King Bay, and headed a little farther to Twelve Mile Bay. Did pretty good with setting the anchor on this day. We let down the dinghy again and did some more exploring. We didn’t find any places to walk – the trees were much too dense – but we found all kinds of interesting things to see and before we knew it, we had circled the entire island we were exploring. Got back to the boat and worked on a few boat chores. Ed made friends with one of the other boaters there on Goose Boots. Came back to tell me that he had been having a “Scotch Sampling.” Not a bad way to pass an afternoon. We were treated that night to an incredible sunset. Why are the most beautiful sunsets always over water? That night we called my sister Judy and her husband Jim to wish them Happy Anniversary – their first. (Their first wedding anniversary, not their first happy anniversary.)
Headed out on the 16th, intending to stop on Wreck Island (how’s that for a name) because we heard it had some walking trails. We tried and tried to find a good anchor spot, but the high water made it difficult. The usual places were too deep and we finally gave up and continued the journey. Headed to the next anchorage in Echo Bay.
We departed the larger area of water and wound our way up to the anchorage. Lo’ and Behold, we arrive and notice that all the boats there are anchored and tied from their sterns to a point on land. Uh Oh – never done this before. We spotted 2 men in a dinghy and Ed waved them over and admitted we had never done this kind of anchoring; could they let us know how to do it. Al and Mark could not have been more helpful. They asked if we had some carabiners. Uh, no. They said “just a minute” and they took off and started scouting the shore. Came back and told us where to move the boat. They had found some “eyes” that were drilled into the rock on the shore and we could tie there. It took us awhile, but we got the boat anchored and then they took one of our stern lines and dinghyed to the shore with to tie it to the metal eye. Boaters are the best!
We made fast friends with Al and Mark by inviting them aboard for beers. They were part of a three boat group on vacation. They were headed to Henry’s – a very popular eating spot – for lunch. Noting that their dinghies had more motor power than ours, Ed sort of asked if we could hitch a ride. Sure! Eight of us boarded the two dinghies and yeah – they had LOTS more power than our 3 hp motor. Went for quite a ride. Got to Henry’s and met up with some Loopers we hadn’t seen in awhile. The seafood lunch was GREAT! We heard tales of all the famous people who had eaten there – Goldie Hawn has a “cottage” near by. Nobody famous there while we ate lunch.
Back at the boats we visited on their raft of three boats. Talked a lot about the Georgian Bay and The Loop. Boaters who haven’t done the Loop are always curious to know about it. We’re glad to share. We hope that more people will jump on board and do their own Loop. There’s nothing quite like it!
I decided that this day deserved an entry of its own. When Loopers talk of their trip, it’s almost a certainty that they will tell you about Georgian Bay. We have REALLY looked forward to this day, because the photos we have seen of this area appear to be too good to be true. Today we discovered that the beauty of this area is everything we could expect and more.
Leaving the marina, the skies were a bit cloudy, but we could see slivers of sunshine. We no longer were in a canal – in which you can travel forward or reverse – we had to plot our course ourselves, made easier with all of Ken’s information. We cruised over some open waters, but the winds were low and the ride comfortable. We were headed for an anchorage called Longuissa. The name was exotic and conjured up thoughts of incredible scenery. Along the way, a butterfly flew onto a pillow next to me up on the bridge. I think butterflies are supposed to be good luck. Could this trip get any better?!
The Georgian Bay is known as the area of 30,000 islands. They come in all shapes and sizes, and many people have found a way to build homes on them. As we approached the island area, it was pretty, but not breathtaking. It would get better.
We got to Longuissa and found out that MANY other boaters also had heard about this spot. It was a very pretty cove area, but too crowded for us. We headed to a nearby anchorage called “hockey stick,” but it, too, was obviously well known. We looked on the chart and found an area called Brown Bay. Not very large, but we decided to check it out.
By this time, the sun was shining, the sky was blue, and the water sparkling. We got to Brown Bay and had it all to ourselves. It was lovely. We put the dinghy in the water and went exploring. What a glorious day! This is what people were talking about when they spoke of Georgian Bay.
Cottages were intermittently spotted on the shoreline and tall, green majestic trees were everywhere. No wonder that people said you could spend an entire summer in just the Georgian Bay area. There are so many islands, inlets, and bays to explore. We could hardly wait for what we would see in the next couple weeks.
On the morning of the 11th, we awaited our turn to go thru the last lock. We got a radio call from our “fine dining” friends on United 771. They were approaching the lock with one good engine – one disabled – and no thrusters to help with maneuvering. They wanted to know if there was space to get in line for the lock. After a conversation with the lock staff and the captain of the boat we were scheduled to go thru with, we arranged for United 771 to go straight into the lock by themselves to minimize any difficulty they might have in getting tied up in the lock. As the lock doors opened, we told United 771 that they could go in – AFTER the red kayak that was exiting. Yes, one small kayak was in the lock and was apparently starting a long journey. He had several friends waving to him and cheering for him. Our friends made it into the lock and were on their way. We would meet again – sooner than we expected.
We went thru the last lock, the shortest of all the locks, and headed towards Beausoleil Island. The island is part of Parks Canada and we had been told of a lovely anchorage. We were now out of “planned waterways,” so we would need to select and chart our own course. You’ve heard the saying – Man makes plans and God laughs? That is applicable here. Winding our way through some narrow waterways, the wind kicked up and made it very difficult to control the boat. We were taught by other Loopers that you select a planned destination for a day, a farther point if the day is good, and a bailout point if the day turns to crap! This day, we chose option #3. We were approaching a navigation buoy that was a turning point for different directions. We turned south and with winds at our stern, we headed for Midland. We called the city marina for reservations. Sorry, they said. A Tall Ship Festival was going on in town and no transient boats were being accepted. A short distance away, we found Bay Port Yachting Centre. Yes, there was plenty of room. As we were moving towards our slip assignment, there sat United 771. They had come here for the repairs they needed. We docked and then got a ride the short distance back to Midland to enjoy the Tall Ship Festival! We also saw several wall murals for which Midland is well known.
That evening, Cathy and Steve from United 771 joined us for dinner at The Arch Steakhouse and Tavern. Again, another fine dining experience. And this meal held a special significance — Ed and I were celebrating our 35th Wedding Anniversary. It was a delightful evening and definitely “fine dining.”
We were getting ready to leave the next morning when someone suggested that we talk with Ken, the marina owner, about places to visit in Georgian Bay. That turned out to be a golden suggestion. Ken takes groups of boaters all over the Bay and he had extensive knowledge of great places to go. We brought our charts, and he talked about all the fabulous places to anchor, the routes to take, and the best places to eat (which are not plentiful), and the best places for fuel and boat services. The information he offered was truly invaluable and will make this journey so much easier and memorable. He was so kind to mark our charts with routes and highlight the anchorages that were “must sees.” By the time we finished, half the day was over and we decided to stay. During the day, we met several other Loopers including MoWhisky – the owners are from Auckland, New Zealand, and no, they did not set sail from there; and California Lady– who we would travel with down the road.
We went to see the SS Keewatin – it was once one of the passenger ships that cruised the Great Lakes. WOW – what a beauty! There is much history about the boat that you may want to research at your leisure. The boat is now a museum and the cabins are decorated with clothing and artifacts from the various decades she was active. It’s like peeking into people’s private staterooms. There are even two honeymoon suites! The dining room is exquisite and the tables are set with all the original tableware, and on the ceiling, there are tiffany windows. Walking through the ship, you can easily imagine the ladies walking by in all their finery and the gentleman retiring to the “smoking lounge.”
That evening we gathered all our charts and reviewed where we would be headed the next day. By God’s grace we had been “blown” into this marina and were now going to leave with a plan in hand.